This post is sponsored by American Pecans.
I always love a restaurant-worthy salad, but perhaps especially during these cold winter months, when heavier comfort foods are constant and a lighter—but just as flavorful—salad doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all. This showstopper has loads of savory-sweet flavor and plenty of crunch. The base is a blend of two lettuces (romaine and iceberg), chopped scallions, and bean sprouts. Cooked rice noodles add satisfying heft, mandarin oranges offer up a little sweetness, while crispy fried wonton strips and chopped, toasted pecans add richness and crunch. To dress the salad, I make a delicious, salty-sweet Asian dressing with rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and the key ingredient: pecan butter, which you can make all on your own in a food processor or high-power blender. I like to use chopped rotisserie chicken breast for ease and convenience, but any baked, grilled, or poached chicken breast works!
Pecans might not be what you’d expect to find in a Chinese chicken salad, but trust me, they’re perfect. They add a nice crunch and have a lovely buttery and sweet taste which works so well with the Asian flavors in the salad. They are The Original Supernut, with many nutrition benefits, like 3 grams of plant-based protein and fiber per serving, “good” fats, and essential minerals.** They are a flavorful way to bring more nutrition to your meals and help power you through your busy day.
Asian Pecan Butter Dressing
This homemade pecan butter dressing is absolutely fabulous—nutty and warm, salty and sweet–and it’s a great way to incorporate more nutritious pecans into your meals!
The first step is making your own pecan butter, which sounds far more complicated than it really is. All you need to do is toast the pecans (which helps to bring out more of the rich, warm flavor of the nuts) then you’ll let them cool to room temperature, add them to a food processor or blender, and process them until completely smooth, which can take anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes depending on the power of your machine. Once you have a bowl of smooth and creamy pecan butter, whisk in rice vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and a little warm water to thin it out.
Homemade Pecan Butter
Here’s what you’ll need:
– 2 cups pecan halves
– Baking sheet (and oven)
– Food processor
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Scatter the pecans on a timed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Place pecans on a baking sheet (or toaster oven pan) and toast until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Transfer the toasted pecans to a food processor (or a high-power blender like a Vitamix). Process on high, scraping down the sides every few minutes, until completely smooth, anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes depending on the power of your machine.
- Transfer the pecan butter to a container and let it cool completely before covering. Store covered in a cool, dark place or in the refrigerator.
Chinese Chicken Salad with Pecans
Asian Pecan Butter Dressing
- ¼ cup pecan butter (recipe above, or substitute another nut butter)
- 1 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1½ tsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp warm water
Chinese Chicken Salad
- 4 oz dried thin rice noodles (¼ of a 16-oz package)
- 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 4 cups chopped iceberg lettuce
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- ¼ cup pecans, toasted and chopped
- ½ cup crispy wonton strips
- 1 cup mandarin oranges
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken breast
- For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients (except for water) until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons of warm water and whisk until incorporated. Add more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach a thick yet pourable consistency.
- For the salad: Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions. Once cooked, drain and then transfer to a bowl with cold water (to keep them from sticking).
- In a large bowl, toss the romaine and iceberg lettuces, scallions, bean sprouts, pecans, crispy wontons, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds. Divide the salad among 4 plates, top each with ½ cup chicken, and serve alongside dressing.